“Nine numbers on terrorism you should know”

Recently, Vision of Humanity published an analysis of the Institute for Economics & Peace’s 2015 Global Terrorism Index, a report which can be found here (PDF file, 7.6 MB). VoH has compiled a list of nine numbers relating to terrorism to highlight the impact of terrorism in the last year. We shall examine each briefly.

1. 32,685 lives were lost to terrorism last year. 

It is worth exploring how “terrorism” is defined. In the 2015 Global Terrorism Index, the report acknowledges that terrorism has no clear, universal definition. The report opts to use the following definition: ‘the threatened or actual use of illegal force and violence by a non state actor to attain a political, economic, religious, or social goal through fear, coercion, or intimidation’. Others (see: “Globalization and Violence, Vol. 3”, p. xxx) often include state terrorism in definitions. If drone strikes, for example, counted as acts of terrorism, the bodycount would be drastically higher than stated in the Index.

2. The number of people killed by terrorism has increased by nine times since 2000.

Again, this depends on how we define terrorism. In the context of this report, however, a valid point can still be made: people are significantly less safe from non-state terrorist actors than they were only 15 years ago.

3. In 2014, 78% of terrorism-related deaths occurred in only five countries–Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan and Syria.

This statistic shows that non-state terrorist actions largely occur in areas where governments have little power, legitimacy or presence. More than half of all 2014 terrorism deaths occurred in two of these countries (Nigeria and Iraq)

4. In 2014, the economic cost of terrorism was 52.9 billion USD, an increase of over 60% from the previous year.

This figure was calculated from “the direct and indirect costs of the loss of life, destruction of property and losses from ransom payments” (Global Terrorism Index 2015, p.61). This number is only an estimate, as it is noted in the report that it is immensely difficult to calculate “indirect costs” of violence.

5. 67 countries experienced one or more terrorism-related deaths in 2014.

This is correct per the definitions used, but it is worth reflecting on #3 once more, as it acknowledges that, despite the global presence of terrorism, the vast majority of deaths occur in a very small number of countries, which is also highlighted by the Vision of Humanity article’s next point:

6. 95 countries experienced no deaths relating to terrorism in 2014.

It must be noted, however, that “no deaths” does not mean terrorism had no impact. Many terrorist attacks in recent years have had significant impacts on feelings of safety and security, perceptions of foreigners or members of different religious or ethnic groups, and even on the public’s right to privacy due to increasingly restrictive laws enacted as a response to perceived terrorist threats.

7. 2.6% of deaths from terrorism have occurred in the West since 2000.

This is a very small percentage, and it highlights the fact that, particularly in the case of Daesh/ISIS, terrorism impacts an overwhelmingly higher number of people in non-Western countries–particularly Muslims–when compared with victims in Western states.

8. Lone wolf attackers accounted from 70% of all deaths from terrorism in the West from 2006 – 2014.

9. During this time, 80% of deaths by lone wolf terrorists in the West were driven by right wing extremism, nationalism, antigovernment sentiment and political extremism and other forms of supremacy.

These final two points drive home the fact that terrorism in the West is much more likely to come from homegrown political extremism than it is from Islamist groups. An FBI report shows that in the United States, between 1980 and 2005, very few terrorist attacks (approximately 6%) were carried out by Islamist groups. The FBI’s report of terrorist attacks was compiled into this pie chart, by LoonWatch:


Overall, Vision of Humanity’s article, “Nine Numbers on Terrorism You Should Know” provides an insightful analysis of the 2015 Global Terrorism Index. There are some potential issues with the report’s definition of terrorism, but the data provided is sound.


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